Avoid sliced bread at all costs.
Basic French Toast
Credit: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Jan Gautro

Making truly excellent French toast can be a little tricky for a beginner. The bread is either too soogyy in the middle or it ends up super dry with burnt edges. Don’t fret. Follow these pro tips, and you will be on the road to French toast glory.

The Bread

The basis of great French toast starts with the bread. Most folks (understandably) grab the same sliced bread that they use for their kids’ peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And that, friends, is a problem. Please, step away from the pre-sliced bread. You have to be more intentional with your loaf choice. A general rule of thumb is that you want to pick a loaf of bread that you have to slice yourself. Challah, brioche, and even cinnamon bread from the bakery are all sound options. These breads are firm, but not too dense, so they will be able to absorb the egg custard well without falling apart. It’s also a good idea to avoid breads with assertive flavors, like rye and pumpernickel. Sourdough bread can go both ways. If you are planning on making a sweet French toast and you like your sweet breakfast entree to be straight-up sweet, skip the sourdough. However, if you’re going a bit more savory and plan to serve with salty side dishes, then the sourdough bread is a thumbs up. It’s really a matter of preference. Once you have secured your loaf of choice, slice it into (about) 1-inch-thick slices.

The Custard

Preparing the custard is the next critical step to great French toast. Generally, you want to follow a ratio of 3 eggs to 1 cup cream, half and half, or milk. Lightly beat the eggs before stirring in the dairy, and season with a pinch each of salt and granulated sugar. Feel free to further spice your French toasts as you see fit with ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, orange zest, lemon zest or vanilla extract. If you are feeling boozy throw in a tablespoon two of bourbon, rum, or liqueur. Once your custard is ready, pour it in a shallow dish that you can dip and soak the bread in easily. The bread should soak in the egg mixture for a solid 30 to 60 seconds total (depending on how thick you cut your slices). This ensures that the very center of the slice absorbs some of the custard.

The Toasting

As the bread rests in the custard, heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle to medium heat and coat with butter. You’ll need to pay close attention to the heat while you cook your French toast. In order to cook the custard fully through, it needs slowly cook under gentle heat. Which means, don’t get impatient and jack the temperature up too high, or you run the risk of burning your toast on the outside while the inside remains wets and gooey. Robin Bashinsky, Time Inc. Food Studios recipe developer says, “When you are cooking French toasts, think about how you cook eggs. You want to be gentle.” He notes that 3 to 4 minutes on each side over medium heat should do the trick. Also, we highly recommend sticking with butter as your cooking fat (rather than swapping for oil). Oil simply does not provide the nutty, rich flavor that butter will as it starts to brown.

Once your French toasts are golden brown, remove them from the heat pan and serve with a few other breakfast favorites—country ham, fruit compote, scrambled eggs, etc.. If you want to keep it classic, top with maple syrup, whipped cream, and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Serve with a sparkling mimosa and enjoy an epic brunch starring the best batch of French toast you have ever made.